Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Life of Muhammad Asad

After reading some works of Talal Asad this semester, I was curious to learn about the life of his father, Muhammad Asad (d. 1992), which is portrayed in the documentary A Road to Mecca. (2008) The documentary is based on Muhammad Asad's autobiography, The Road to Mecca (1954).

Muhammad Asad was born a Jew in Lwow, now part of Poland in 1900; his name was originally Leopold Weiss. He first encountered the Near East when he visited a relative in Jerusalem in 1922. During his time there he expressed concerns about the consequences of building a Jewish state in Palestine; he debated Zionism with Chaim Weizmann.

Asad converted to Islam at the age of 26 and traveled throughout the Near East. He befriended King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia; he later met Muhammad Iqbal and campaigned for the establishment of Pakistan. He eventually acquired Pakistani citizenship, and served briefly as the Pakistani Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations. Asad translated the Quran to English, an endeavor that took 17 years to complete; his translation was published in 1980.

The documentary focused more on Muhammad Asad's life after his conversion to Islam, and less on his youth in Europe. As a young man, Asad wrote film scripts, worked as a journalist for a time. In short, his life story is fascinating. Al Jazeera English broadcasted A Road to Mecca in its entirety last week, but has since removed it from their website. The documentary is available for purchase from Icarus Films.


Anonymous said...

Do you know why AJE removed the doc from their website??

The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University: Student Blog said...

probably due to copyright